God has the perfect plan for our life, but unfortunately we spend so much time trying to figure out our own plan that we fail to see the way God is working in our lives. From where you live, to the friends you have, to the people you meet, to the diagnosis you’ve been given…God has a hand in it all. For the past ten years or so, I never would have imagined the way my life had been leading up to my diagnosis. I didn’t see the path God was leading me down. But now it seems so clear, so blatantly obvious, that the Lord has been walking me down the yellow brick road to diagnosis, with the bricks displaying the names of those whom I’d encounter… exactly the right people in my path so that I could be right where I am, right when I need to be, when I most need it.
You see, ten years ago I thought I had experienced trauma to my jaw from a dentist who pried my mouth open for hours with a contraption that looked like something out of a Chinese torture chamber (not that I’ve actually been to a Chinese torture chamber). I was convinced of the trauma, as my jaw pain worsened and jaw opening continued to decline. Doctor after doctor and dentist after dentist said it was TMJ, or just thought I was plain crazy. I knew I wasn’t crazy (at least not like they thought), but couldn’t get anyone to listen. So, I just succumbed to the pain and inconvenience of having to eat a sandwich with a bottom bite, a top bite and eventually enjoying whatever filled the middle with that third bite. I became quite adept at it, and never seemed to eat any less as a result…unfortunately for me! It was about 3 years ago when I woke up with nerve damage on the right side of my face as well. I immediately went to the doctor, who told me that the nerve must have been affected by the TMJ somehow and it would probably get better. He sent me to PT for my jaw, which helped ever so slightly with my mobility, but the nerve pain and the jaw have remained a problem ever since. But enough hoo haw about my troubles. This is about God’s perfect plan!
Some people ask if I’m mad at all the doctors and dentists who failed to do a simple CT scan or MRI that could have easily diagnosed my cancer years ago. The answer is no. And I’ll tell you why...God has a perfect plan. Period. Years ago, I didn’t have the faith that I have now and wasn’t where I needed to be. Just looking at my faith journey, I realize that God has been leading me and preparing me for this very moment in my life. I’ve always believed, but there is a difference between believing and living God’s word. Several years ago with my church in CA(shout out to Placentia Presbyterian Church), I was part of a group of over 100 people who read the Bible in 90 days. It was hard, it was exhausting, but it was also life changing. I will never forget closing the book on Revelation and just crying at the magnitude of what I’d just read, and what I’d just accomplished. How many people have read the entire Bible cover to cover? I also finished it on our wedding anniversary, which was so meaningful, having been married at the church that was nurturing my spiritual growth still 17 years later. Had I not read the Bible completely, had I not experienced the Holy Spirit entering my body, had I not committed myself to Community Bible Study here in TX for the past two years, had I not studied Revelation, had I not moved to TX, had I not moved to Clubhouse Dr., had I not met Bert, had I not seen cancer through Jim Murphy’s eyes, had I not, had I not… Had I not done these things I would not have the sustaining faith that I have to get me through this cancer journey. Period.
God places people in our lives for a reason. Sometimes we may never know the reason and sometimes, like now, for instance, the reason is shown to us, even if only partially. Let me start with trusting God with our move to TX. Two years ago we decided yet again that we wanted to move to Texas. We knew we wanted to get out of California and thought it was a great time, with Meghan moving on to Middle School (she would have to make new friends anyways). So, we bargained with God. I’m not quite sure if this is a proper method of communicating with our Lord, but we felt that was the only way to know for sure if this was what was meant to be for us. So we said, “Lord, if the house doesn’t sell by July 14, we are going to take it off the market.” End of story. Moving to Texas would forever be off the table, and we would have to be content with our life in California. So, God knew our deadline. And, for the first time in our lives, I think, we lifted the process up to God. What’s meant to be will be. We didn’t try to force our agenda, but trusted that He would light the path for us and lead us where we needed to be. And, he kept us guessing and wondering until the very last moment. But, the day the Riley’s walked into our house, two days before taking it off the market, I knew that they would be buying our home. I actually knew even before they did what type of family it would take. Looking back now, I think God gave me that information ahead of time, so when I saw them I would know it was right. That Thursday night at 9pm the offer came in and we had our sign from God. And everything along the way has somehow fallen into place as part of God’s plan for me at this stage of my life.
We knew there was a bigger reason for the move to Texas (besides loving it and wanting out of CA), but we never, EVER, thought that it would be for me. I assumed that it would be to help my parents if something happened, or to help be there for my brother who has had heart issues in the past. But me? I’m the healthy one (well, besides the tumor the size of a large plum in my sinus). But God knew that we needed to be here so we could be only 3 hours from the best cancer hospital in the country. My parents and brother all live in Lakeway. Not a point that should be over looked. If we didn’t have their support and help with the kids right now, it would be very hard to coordinate all of their needs and activities while we go back and forth to Houston. If we didn’t have their love and emotional support it would be much harder. Their names are most definitely on the yellow brick road…Mike, Nancy and Sean.
When we moved to Texas, we had very little time to find a home. We wanted to purchase and be in the home before school started 5 weeks later (we always were overachievers). So, basically we had a weekend. The girls and I flew to Texas, looked at many homes, and Will joined us and looked at the ones we liked with us. We decided to make an offer on a home that met most of our requirements, but it didn’t feel like home to us. When Barbara, our realtor (and dear friend) called to make the offer, the agent said they already had an offer and weren’t taking more. Barb said there was another house in Lakeway she wanted to show us (I thought I had weeded everything out already online, but we had nothing to lose). When she pulled up to the home on Clubhouse Drive, I was pleased. I have always loved columns and there were two large ones that attracted my eye. The limestone and stucco were a beautiful combination too. Things were looking good. We entered the house and knew. But when we saw the back yard, we really knew. It was the oasis we had dreamed of. We didn’t know, but God knew that we needed to be on Clubhouse Drive. Barbara’s name is on that yellow brick road.
I’m not so twisted that I believe God cared about the oasis in my back yard or the columns on my front porch, but I believe with all my heart that He cared about who I would be surrounded by. And, that would be some of the most amazing friends I could ever ask for. Neighbors who would become more like sisters than friends! Sisters that I would bond with, workout with, celebrate with and when the time came, cry with as we gathered with Los Pinos breakfast tacos and Starbucks coffee in my family room as I told them my diagnosis was cancer. This Taco Intervention as it is now referred to, was a completely unplanned event. You must know how hard it is to get five women together at the same time last minute, but these women knew something was wrong. I hadn’t told them the diagnosis the day before when I found out, but I did go to a girl’s get together that night because I just wanted to be normal. But there would now be a new normal for me. Anyways, they knew I had the biopsy (the bloody gauze taped to the bottom of my nose was a clear reminder), but I didn’t want to ruin that moment with the results. The funny thing about girlfriends is that they knew. They knew I needed them and that next morning somehow they all came to me, to be with me. Stacy brought tacos and said Torri was bringing Starbucks. I was in my pajamas, hair a mess, no makeup and a bloody nose gauze and it didn’t matter to me or them. Chris and Gina cam for me too. No one planned this. Each of these women knew I needed them. They are my true sisters in Christ. As they inquired about the biopsy results (they knew I would be getting them soon), I finally broke down and told them. There were tears and hugs and prayers, and I was surrounded by the people God led me to. Their names were on that yellow brick road…Stacy, Chris, Torri and Gina.
Amazingly enough, and in Gods mysterious way, dear Torri was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer just a few weeks after I was. And none of us could help but believe that it was so that we could help each other in a way that others couldn’t. That I could show her the comfort I received upon my diagnosis from both my friends and family and the biggest comfort from the Lord. Just as my path had been clear, Torri found a doctor that she loved (recommended by my mother) and had surgery last week. She is currently recovering and doing well. Now she is just waiting on the results of the lymph node biopsies, results of which she will get tomorrow. But somehow, she, like I, is calm and at peace, because we know we are in the care of the Lord. It is truly the peace that transcends all understanding.
Will’s dear friend, Jim Murphy, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer on Christmas Eve 2012. It was a shock and frightening, especially for those of us who hadn’t dealt too personally with cancer. My husband was really scared and concerned, and we were amazed with Jim’s attitude towards his cancer, towards his Lord and Savior, toward his recovery and toward life. He was out mountain biking after chemo treatments and even working ski patrol at Big Bear on a weekend while in treatment. He was the model for a perfect patient. He wrote a blog that was so uplifting and inspiring, and when I was diagnosed I said that he was going to be my model for how I was going to respond to cancer. I was not going to allow it to get me, but I was going to tackle it with everything I had, most especially, the Lord. I’m on His team. Jesus wins. So how can I not win? Jim Murphy is on that yellow brick road.
Also on that yellow brick road is our friend Blake Alexander, who is a genetic physicist for a pharmaceutical company. He gave us a lot of information about Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, genetic markers, and MD Anderson. Along with our neighbors and friends, Jim and Janie Gentil, who gave me the name of their daughter in laws best friend who happens to work in the Head and Neck department at MD Anderson where I’m being treated. Another neighbor and friend, Tami, explained to me that her daughter also has an inoperable tumor. Just like they told me originally, they shrunk her tumor and are controlling it with no signs of growth in the last several years. That gave me the wisdom to understand that it didn’t have to be removed to be fully treated and eased that burden. Tami, too, is on that yellow brick road.
The first Sunday after my diagnosis, it was amazing that our pastor started a series on Mystery and suffering. It was yet another very clear, very defined moment when God was talking to me and reaching out to all of us. Will said he felt like God slapped him in the face. Like, “HELLO…I’ve got this.” We humans have a hard time with suffering. We don’t understand it. We don’t understand how a loving God could allow it to happen. We don’t understand why good people suffer. But guess what? We don’t have to understand it. We are not even capable of understanding it. But, Pastor Lee said something very profound. “It is not God’s will for us to suffer, but in our suffering we can find God’s will.” Amen to that. Pastor Lee is on that yellow brick road.
Barbara’s boyfriend, Bert, is on the yellow brick road. We have been friends with Barbara (our realtor) since we moved and she’s been dating Bert for a while now. Until a few weeks before my first major symptoms, I didn’t even know what he did. But the last time we saw them I learned he was a semi retired neurologist…a well respected neurologist in Austin. So, when the time came for me to take action, I called him to get a recommendation on a neurologist. He sent me to Dr. Hill, and was willing to send me for my MRI before my appointment with Dr. Hill if he couldn’t get me in soon. He went out of his way to call Dr. Hill on my behalf, to call my ENT on my behalf, to read my MRI and explain in English what he saw. He texted me, he told me to call him on vacation if I needed him to explain anything. From the beginning, I knew I would be getting the very best care possible because of Bert and his contacts and his influence. Bert, or should I say Dr. Albert Horn III, is most definitely on that yellow brick road.
And before all of these amazing people there were those who paved the way and supported me too. They know who they are and they know how much I love them. Their names are on that yellow brick road too.
It’s amazing, quite frankly, when you see it laid out on paper, how integral each of these people has been and will continue to be on my yellow brick road to recovery. And when I met each of them, I never expected or dreamed how they would be a part of my journey. I feel so blessed that my eyes are open enough to see that part of God’s perfect plan for me. And I look forward to etching more names in the yellow brick road as I continue to walk down it towards recovery. I can’t wait to see what God has planned still for me!
“since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” HEBREWS 11:40